February 9, 2023
Think of the General Fund’s unassigned fund balance as a municipality’s “rainy day fund.” This is money to have in reserve in case of an emergency or unforeseen circumstances. The percentage reflects the money available compared to expenditures in that particular fiscal year. In the past two fiscal years the fund balance (General Fund) has plummeted from 46% to 12%. In his audit report Monday night, February 6, 2023, Jay Parris explained that this was due to the addition of the library and the subsequent library debt.
Town of Farmville Unassigned Fund Balance for each fiscal year ending June 30 as recorded in annual audits
Fiscal Year 2019/20 46.26%
Fiscal Year 2020/21 23.75%
Fiscal Year 2021/22 12%
It makes sense that placing the new library at the top of the town’s priorities meant that many other projects would have to be put on hold. We don’t have an endless supply of resources. Well-considered capital improvements can be worth the investment, certainly. It helps when most residents are convinced that the scope of the project is reasonable and the cost to taxpayers is within wise limits. Now the town must work to build up the balance in the General Fund.
Presumably, Farmville’s water, sewer and electric funds are operating at a surplus. On July 1, 2022 our water rates went up by 14%, our sewer rates by 5% and our electric rates by 5%. On January 1, 2023 our electric rates were raised by an additional 1%. (Water rates also went up by 6% on July 1, 2021 and by 6% on July 1, 2020.)
The Town of Farmville has received over $1.4 million in federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act to help with the negative impacts of COVID. Of course, there are parameters for how this can be spent. It will be crucial for our commissioners and town manager to have a solid, thoughtful plan and to use this money incredibly wisely. The U.S. federal government has tossed Farmville a lifeline that, if used properly, could be an enormous help in digging us out of a financial hole.
There are two topics that have been swirling on the streets of Farmville lately, in addition to our high utility bills. The first is the condition of the roads and curbs. It is fairly easy to determine which streets are state-maintained and which are the responsibility of the local government.
Last week I was leaving Farmville Hardware, driving through the Bonnie’s Alley parking lot for which the town paid $520,000 just a few years ago. While exiting to North Walnut Street, I determined that the $60,000 purchase price of that drive would be hard to justify given the enormous potholes making up the small area. My guess is that few motorists choose to exit that way after one experience maneuvering around the ruts. Why buy something you’re not going to maintain?
The second topic is the future of the much-needed new fire station. It is not in the budget in this current fiscal year. I don’t know if it is accurate, but a friend told me that the fire station was not on the agenda for last month’s annual commissioners’ retreat and was not discussed. Could anyone please verify or dispute that? Will the new fire station be delayed yet another fiscal year?
Farmville truly is a gem of a town and some of the best people live here. Surely we can get our house in order and regain control over our municipal spending and billing.